February 6, 2020
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. Howard J. Foster. Dr. Foster left a tremendous educational legacy as the founder and former chairman of the Department of Physics and Mathematics at Alabama A&M University.
Dr. Howard J. Foster was born on Sept. 22, 1926, in Gadsden, Alabama. He was a 7th grade dropout; but after serving in the armed forces, Dr. Foster returned to the seventh grade at the age of 23. He attended college at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he graduated magna cum laude and earned the MS degree in physics. In 1964 he received a Ph.D. in physics from Catholic University of America with a special citation for academic performance.
Before his time at Alabama A&M University, Foster held a position as solid state physicist in the Institute for Material Research at the US National Bureau of Standards. He also held consulting and part time professional positions with NASA and the Atomic Energy Commission, and a visiting professorship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Foster’s past work activity included teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels in physics and mathematics; consulting in environmental sciences; work in atomic energy; environmental control (space program); missile vibration shielding; prospecting for mineral resources from outer space; defense against sophisticated missile attack (Safeguard); laboratory director for high-temperature studies of missile nose-cone materials and nuclear fuels; electron microscopy and diffraction; thin films and crystal growth, and theoretical and experimental studies of Fermi surfaces in metals.
Foster’s recent work activity included quantum theoretical and experimental studies of Fermi surfaces and electronic properties of metals; work in crystal growth and purification of metals and alloys; and, consulting in some of these areas.
Legacy - Department of Physics and Mathematics at Alabama A&M University
Dr. Foster began the physics and mathematics department at Alabama A&M University in 1965. He was the chairman of the department of physics and mathematics at Alabama A&M University when he died on January 23, 1973. The Howard J. Foster Center for Irradiation of Materials is a research building on the campus of Alabama A&M University named after Dr. Foster.